I was taking a break from studying for final exams during a brief and
unpleasant stay in law school. I decided to turn on the TV and catch a
little of the Monday Night Football game. Don't remember who was playing;
didn't really care, I just wanted to get away from Contracts and Torts for a while.
Howard Cosell said something like, "We've just received word that former
Beatle John Lennon has been shot and killed outside his apartment in New York."
I remember feeling more numb than anything else; I didn't cry or do anything dramatic.
I just sat there on my astoundingly ugly black Naugahyde couch and stared at the screen.
Cosell went on, "We had Mr.Lennon as a guest at halftime of our game with the Jets (?)
earlier in the season, and I for one found him an engaging and amusing fellow. He will be missed."
You know, in a way I'm glad Cosell was the one to bring me the news.
I had a lot more respect for Howard as a journalist than I had for many
of the network whores of that time (or this). He always told the truth,
he was brutally intelligent and fun to listen to.
Lennon's death affected me deeply (more later on than at the time) because
he had kept me going through the seventies. I was late in coming to the
Beatles, being born in 1959; I missed all the really good stuff. I have no
memory of Ed Sullivan in '64, or Shea Stadium, or even The White Album.
I do remember "Get Back" and "Let It Be" as huge hit records, but I didn't
buy my first Beatles record until 1975 (Sgt. Pepper). Something about
Lennon's voice and overall manner spoke to me. He connected with me in a
way that few other musicians have, even (or especially) when his songs
didn't seem to make any logical sense:
--"Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes, and she's gone," he sang.
spent my teenage years looking for that sun-eyed girl, and damned if she
wasn't gone by the time I got there, mostly.
--"I think I know, I mean, I guess, but it's all right; that is, I think
it's not too bad." Now tell me, what fifteen year old kid couldn't identify
with that Who-like stumbling, searching and yearning?
Hope I die before I get old, indeed.
The next day I had lunch with a group of my law school classmates.
Mostly, they didn't give the proverbial rat's hindquarters about his death.
"We studied his poetry in high school," one of the women offered, trying to
find some common ground, I suppose. They just didn't get it. These were the
people who would become ditto-heads later in the decade, sitting there,
waiting for their hero to come out of California and spread his crap across
the airwaves. Just a couple of months before, Herr Reagan had swept into
office in a huge landslide, crushing liberal ideas before him like a steamroller.
Dark days: Ronnie Ray-gun grinning in the White House, and
John Lennon lying in a New York morgue.
The next spring, The Clash released "Sandinista!", and I thought maybe
there was a ray of sunlight: a huge international megacorp (CBS) releasing
an album named for a Central American socialist revolutionary party by a
confrontational British punk band. The Rolling Stone review suggested that
after listening to the record, one might want to write a little graffitti, perhaps
"Clash rule" or "Lennon Lives." I thought about it, but it seemed too little, too late.
After December 8, 1980, it would be a long while before things got better,
but they would never be the same.
Howard Cosell told me.that John Lennon had been murdered,
That's how I remember it was a Monday night.
Cosell was doing play-by-play for Monday Night Football on the television
at the bar where I was trying to drink myself to death at the time.
(I tried three or four such places. This one was in Fort Smith, Arkansas.)
Nobody was paying any attention to the game that night.
There was a dart tournament and the place was very busy and cheerful and loud.
The bar was noisy and you could barely hear the television over the noise.
But you know how it is -- even when there's a conversation going on
across the room
that you're not paying attention to, if you hear a certain word -- or maybe your name
-- you notice it -- pick it out of the garble and become alert to it.
I was conversing, I assume loudly, to a couple of friends,
completely ignoring the game,
when I heard Howard say "John Lennon." I immediately alerted. I turned to the TV, wondering
what the hell Cosell could be talking about Lennon for, and on Monday Night Football, to boot.
Monday Night Football and John Lennon?
Howard Cosell and John Lennon. What the hell?
Around me, all the noise went on, all the conversation. It seems that
I alone had heard Cosell
say Lennon's name. I concentrated on listening to what he was saying. It was something serious,
I could tell from his demeanor. Cosell himself was on the screen now, looking at the camera
with solemn importance. I can't remember the exact words, but it was something like,
"Repeating our bulletin from ABC News, recording star John Lennon, of the Beatles,
was shot to death tonight outside his home in New York City. He was 40 years old."
It takes a while before you can believe something like that. There's
an airlock the idea has to go to
before it can fully enter the mind. I remember feeling short-of-breath at the very idea of what I
thought I had just heard. I turned to my friends and asked if they'd heard it. They hadn't. I said,
"I think he said John Lennon is dead. John Lennon has been shot. They've shot John Lennon."
I'm sure I remember it wrong, because what I remember happening next
could not really
have happened. On the other hand, I couldn't believe it was happening at the time either.
Because what happened was ... nothing. Or very little. People went on drinking, went on talking.
Even the football game came back on. It seemed that life intended just to go right on unaffected,
as if it could after such news.
Even when the mumble had gone round the bar, as it quickly did, nobody
seemed much affected
by the news, or even very interested in it. Drinkers have their priorities.
Somehow, I expected the whole world to react as I was. It seemed only
right for all the noise and
music to immediately, automatically cease, and for solemn organ music to start moaning low, and
for black crepe to come curtaining down over everything. I expected everyone to immediately
become quiet and sad. That's what anyone who has just lost someone close to them ought to do.
But the party just went right on.
I went from person to person, saying "John Lennon is dead!" I
was looking for the right reaction
-- the kind of kicked-in-the-stomach look that OUGHT to be on everyone's face the instant such
news is heard. No one seemed to have it but me. A few said "Yeah, I know." or "Yeah, that sucks,"
but almost no one expressed much emotion or even any shock. Didn't they feel that horrible icy
emptiness I was feeling? Didn't they feel as if a piece of their heart, a part of their very capacity
for joy, had been broken off and lost forever?
I searched my mind for what I should do now -- what everyone ought to
do now, together, to share
and accept this terrible news. It seemed to me that somebody had to do something -- call for a
moment of silence, start to cry, something. Here and there, a few women seemed to be crying quietly
now, but the reaction still wasn't right. I became actually angry that people thought they could just go
on as if nothing had happened.
I had to go outside, where I sat on the curb and thought, "Maybe they
don't realize yet. Maybe they
don't appreciate yet what they've just lost ... But I sure as hell do." Then I went home and watched
television all night alone -- like I did the night Bobby Kennedy was shot.
That's another piece of me I still miss.
I had had just left for work as the opening manager of a restaurant.
I turned the radio on and was floored by the first words I heard.
"John Lennon is dead. He was shot last night." I immediately pulled
back into the driveway and went inside to wake up my roommates.
We all sat around for a few minutes watching it on tv. I was just stunned.
I went on to work and fielded many calls from friends who knew what
Beatles fan I was. It was almost as if they had heard a family member of
mine had died.
The restaurant where I was assistant manager was in a small town in
Tennessee. That Sunday I changed the marquee to read:
In Our Life
We Loved You More
The local newspaper came by and took a picture.
I still get blurry eyed thinking of the terrible waste.
I still feel for Yoko, Sean and Julian.
Al in Tennessee.
In 1980 I was sixteen. I woke up early that morning for some reason;
it was a school day,
an usually I tried to sleep as late as possible on school days. But I was up early, and went
over to my brother's room to listen to the radio.
I heard the DJ say something about John Lennon, but I couldn't
quite catch it - I don't think
I wanted to catch it. Then they played "Starting Over" from his new record, which was a song
that I really liked. A little poppy and mainstream for John, but it proved that the smartest Beatle still had it.
And then my dad called upstairs to wake us up:
"Kids, WAKE UP! Time to get ready for school! By the way, John Lennon has been killed!"
My dad never liked non-classical music, and I'm sure he had no idea
how we'd feel about that.
I just stood there. I hoped it wasn't true. "Starting Over" ended, and the DJ started talking
about the terrible, senseless loss.
I turned and put my fist half-way through my brother's closet door.
Years later, when we moved out, the dent was still there. And I still missed John.
On that awful night, I was a 20-year-old disc jockey at an AM country
radio station in my
hometown of Dubuque, Iowa. About 10 minutes before my airshift was to begin, I was in
the newsroom clearing the AP wire for a little sportscast I did after the 10 o'clock news.
Just then, the mechanical AP wire went apeshit, with a racket of bells
such as I'd never heard.
I checked the wire just as the flash headline was printing out, JOHN LENNON SHOT DEAD.
Immediately, I ran from the newsroom into the air studio with the story,
and gave it to the woman
I was about to replace on the air. She read it on the air, choking up while she read it, and played
"Imagine" immediately after. We unilaterally decided to play all Lennon or Beatle songs for the
rest of the night, and none of the usually cantankerous country fans even called to complain.
While I was pulling my airshift on the AM station, the program director
of our automated
FM station called to ask the newsguy and myself to dub off as many Beatle/Lennon songs
as we could find and feed them into the automation system. Dave the newsguy dubbed,
I added them into the automation. As Dave handed me cut after cut off the White Album,
I pounded them into the automation as fast as I could...coming within an eyelash of airing
"Happiness Is A Warm Gun" on the radio, the very night it's singer and songwriter was assassinated.
When I handed the tape of it back to Dave, saying, "uh...maybe not",
the look on his face was a
mixture of shock and horror that I'll never forget.
Somehow, I managed to get through the 4 hours on air.
Immediately after signing both stations off the air, I allowed myself a good cry.
This horrible thing, so close on the heels of the election of Red Ink Ronnie,
was just too much to bear. I was on the air for a lot of historical moments in the 12 years
I did radio, but none of them effected me quite the way the killing of John Lennon did.
It was like a portent of the decade of greed and ugliness that was to follow.
I was expecting my first child. My husband woke me up and told
me John was
dead and I thought he was surely wrong. We watched the coverage on TV
and I remember thinking that my kiddo would never know about John.
That was wrong actually. Both my kids are mad for the Beatles.
I read John's rather twisted poems ( well some of them ) to my son when
he was little,
...he loved the one about the budgie.
John made the Beatles. With just McCartney it would have been
songs that would never made it out of Liverpool. John was the brains and
the conscience and the idealist of that group. (What Would John Do? WWJD )
I dream about him sometimes. They're comfortable friendly dreams that always
leave me feeling I've talked to an old friend.
John gave us so much. He provides the on-going soundtrack to my
how many others. I light a candle on Oct. 9 and December 8 and say a prayer
that he walks in peace and happiness in The Summerlands.
"Reality leaves a lot to the imagination"
-- John Lennon
I had been studying for final exams that evening.
My Dad beckoned me loudly to the Television as he was watching Monday Night Football.
When I walked into the Living room I asked what he wanted and he shsssed me so to
listen to what was being broadcast. When I heard John had been shot and had died in hospital,
my world spun like a crazy dial on a radio. Stunned was too simple a word to describe my feelings.
A man who had so influenced me from age 6 to now (42) was gone forever.
John had embodied the true teen spirit of Rock 'n Roll, and so much
more in the macro.
A part of me died that night as well, gone was any residual innocence of my youth,
and my religious life ended too. It took years to forgive the Christians for "silencing" Lennon.
I know they are not all bad, but I wish to steer clear of religion for the remainder of this current existence.
I loved John Lennon as a brother, teacher, and icon of my generation.
There is not a single day that I do not think of him,
and I send him vibrations of love and peace.
December 8, 1980. Exactly 7 days before my 26th birthday. I was watching
- for no
other reason than I could only receive 3 TV channels at the time, and worked nights
with my off days being Sunday and Monday - ABC's Monday Night Football.
Since my earliest childhood memories, I had 'worshipped' <all you
Mentalists should note that I didn't see them as my salvation from life, sin and Democrats>
the Beatles since I first heard of them. You see, it was the Beatles 'sound' that got me
interested in rock and roll music and trying to learn to play a guitar. I bugged my parents
so much that they actually bought me one (a Sears model with almost 1 inch of clearance
between the strings and the fretboard. My fingers were bleeding before Lennon's) and
paid for lessons from my uncle, who was a wonderfully talented guitar player.
Heck, he could mimic Chet Atkins to the point that he NEVER 'squeaked a note.
You see, my younger brother and I 'plotted' on that February, 1964 night
to stay home
from the Sunday evening church services which we always went to.
The Beatles were coming. And we just HAD to see them on Ed Sullivan.
We managed to do just that. I was 9 at the time, my brother only 7.
But we DID see them that night. And we were hooked forever.
Over the next 6 years, I watched as the Beatles got into scandal after
the necktie boys and religious 'champions' of my time. But, all I ever saw was four
very talented musicians - geniuses already in my mind - just saying what they thought.
Isn't that what the first amendment says we can do anyway?
Viet Nam was on TV every freakin' night. Blood, gore, horror,
Death. I just kept wishing it would go away. I'd already lost one of my favorite uncles over
there in 1965. And another was in a mental hospital after his third voluntary tour with the Marines.
I saw no harm in singing about love and peace and caring. Nor did I
see any harm in talking
about it in public. Why did all of these people who were screaming, "Kill the Goddamned Commies!!"
keep also screaming, "Kill anyone who wears a Peace Sign!!"...?
And they wonder why we WANTED to get stoned?
John Lennon, more than any so-called 'Activist' of my generation, was
a leader in being
so bold as to promote peace over war under ANY circumstances. Naturally, he recognized
that he had a 'bully pulpit' by being a 'celebrity'. But, why NOT use that to tell folks what
you really think and feel? To the 'hawks', he was for disarmament. Sure he was, but under
reasonable terms, I'm certain. Heck no fool, not even a 'peacenik' wanted to just toss
everything in the ocean and then die the next day from some tyrannical adversary.
Sheesh. Couldn't the hawks SEE that?
Then, while I was just going into high school, the Beatles broke up.
I was shattered.
So were many others. I even embraced self-delusions like thinking the Beatles were
going to show up at the biggest east coast concert since Woodstock. It was called
"The August Jam" at the Charlotte (now "Lowes", corporate seducers) Motor Speedway in,
appropriately enough, August of 1973. I was there.
Paid the ungodly amount of $35 for two tickets, but didn't care that my $65 a month rent
was going to be late. I wanted to be there when the Beatles returned! Alas, I was disappointed.
As the years passed and I and the former Beatles aged and matured, I
came to understand
that the time comes when things simply have to come to an end. And I was comfortable with that.
I would always have 'their' music. And I looked to forward with great anticipation the individual
works of each of the former Beatles.
And I still do.
But that December night in 1980 when I heard the news of John's <I
can't help it. I have to call him
by his first name. He was as much a part of me as any member of my family> death stunned me.
And almost instantly, I came to extreme anger.
Not at the news of some deranged maniac who wanted to kill him and had
But at the realization, within seconds, that I had heard the news of John's death not from someone
I knew and respected, like Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley. I heard it from the most despised
TV personality I have ever seen.
An egotistical, self-centric, arrogant, selfish, certified total ass by the name of Howard Cossell.
To this day, I can NOT get his grating delivery of the news out of my mind when reminded of this day....
"JOHN.....LENNON.......was SHOT.....and KILLED....tonight....outside of his Dakota apartment in Manhattan...."
If only I could have heard it from "Uncle Walter".
The recollection still makes me want to puke.
In 1980, I was 16 years old and in the throes
I was caught between the stage of raging hormones and a firm commitment to youth
(in my instance it was a love of sports). December 8, 1980 was a Monday night.
I was watching Monday Night Football (I don't remember who was playing).
Anyway, being a die-hard New York Jets fan and they weren't playing,
I had only a
casual interest in the game. About 10:30 PM, I remember Al Michaels (part of the Cosell,
Dan Meredith troika) announced that former Beatle John Lennon had been shot in NYC
(there was no confirmation at this point that the shooting was fatal).
To be honest, I was not a Beatlemaniac at this point just a casual acquaintance.
They were a little before my time (when they split in 1970, I was 5 years old).
I had heard of the standards like "Yesterday" and "Hey Jude" but I was not a die-hard per se.
Yet, I felt touched in some odd way. I had never heard a sports announcer connect with
anything other than...well sports. This was a rarity for me in my sheltered ,
suburban Long Island, football/baseball infested world.
Michaels announcement was followed by a typical
Cosell lecture that was less memorable
and more tedious. However, it was the outpouring of emotion and sadness which followed
which instilled a sense of wistfulness in me about the Beatles and in particular, John Lennon.
Suffice it to say, I became enthralled by the Beatles music after this
tragic event. In 1981,
for example, my raison d' EAtre was collecting every LP the Beatles ever produced.
From there on in, I also collected their single works and to this day The Beatles
maintain a very important role in my life.
What was probably amazing was the fact that
I was drawn to them, and Lennon in particular,
through a medium which could have so little in common with him: sports. I guess Lennon's genius
transcended these different mediums. I must have really grew up on that day because I was able
to see it with the clarity of a microscope. Lennon was that paradoxical mixture of cynicism, optimism
and altruism; he combined this with a razor sharp wit and could comment on the the phoniness,
issues and glitter that we commonly refer to as life.
Paul McCartney once said in an interview that
the Beatles changed dramatically from the mop-top,
Ed Sullivan, "She Loves You" days to the Sgt.Pepper years of introspection and experimentation.
Yet, he once looked over at Lennon once during the latter period and, Lennon, with his granny glasses
directness dryly told him (I'm paraphrasing) "It's still me under here, Paul I haven't changed."
That's what stood out and made John Lennon
special: he could still be the person he was even though
he may have looked different. Yet, he also said it was O.K. to change and grow. What a paradox!
Thanks, for allowing me to grow, John.
Don from Long Island
The quietest day I can recall
I woke up early on a December morning twenty years ago and turned on the radio.
A very sombre DJ announced that in the last few minutes a report had come in from
America that John Lennon had been shot.
In Britain we had nothing to relate this to, no bearings, no experience.
We had not lived with the lethal side effects of guns owned by loonies as you have in the US.
There were no presidents, presidential candidates or civil rights heros slain in England.
I went to work hoping to hear good news but fearing the worst.
Bullets kill people, they are very good at it.
The feeling was almost surreal in our research lab that day.
The grief was monumental, as if everyone of us had lost a friend or brother.
I can still conjure up the shroud of silence that we walk through.
That voice and creativity was a part of my young life.
The first song I ever had stuck in my head, when I was four or five, was "She loves you".
John's LP "Imagine" was playing the first time I got laid.
The day John Lennon died, I realised there are some very bad people in the world.
His murder took the last piece of childhood out of me.
I miss his brilliance very much.
It is still quieter without him.
I remember it better than the Challenger explosion (which I saw live
because I live in Florida.
I could see the twin "horns" smoke all the way from Fort Myers).
I was 17 and listening to the radio in bed when the announcer broke
the news that he had been shot. After a few minutes of being stunned, she had
a friend in New York on the line and describe the spontaneous vigil outside
Lennon's townhouse. It was spooky and moving. No riots, no special
commissions, just sadness that an icon of peace had been violently struck down.
Up to the time of his death (at least from the early '70's on), I thought
John was pretty unlikeable. It was, for me at least, a case of not
appreciating what I had until it was gone. When I heard on a newsflash over
one of the local Washington, D.C. area tv stations that John Lennon had been
shot and killed, the sadness I felt surprised me. For a few days afterward,
I actually played the feeling down. The sense of loss was too big to
communicate, so like McCartney's lame expression that, "It's a drag," the
only time I mentioned it that week was to say that it was a pity. I had just
turned 16 and was in the 11th grade. I grew up a little bit that week.
The sense of sadness over Lennon's death has actually deepened over
read that Lennon had actually signed onto a lawsuit against some unauthorized
Beatle exploitation, and found out that part of his affadavit he claimed that
the Beatles had planned to reunite to record some new material for a
documentary they would make themselves. Clearly, "The Beatles Anthology"
was the best that could be done without a live John Lennon.
I think you were too hard on David Hinckley. Sources other than
Goldman should be included when you consider the state of Lennon's mind &
marriage. I know it is very easy to dismiss Goldman's hagiography of John.
Goldman is a talented hack - nothing more, but other folks have come forward
since then. Pick up a copy of Lennon by John Robertson. It's quite
comprehensive. Yoko stormed out of a post-Double Fantasy recording session
in Bermuda, and later, according to her friend Fred Seaman, rumors circulated
among her friends that she was planning to Divorce John. These were complex
people, and like Elvis or Hillary, you can't sum up everyday of their lives
as if they lived in some magical fairyland of domestic bliss.
Ask Mrs. Bartcop about perpetual domestic bliss if you don't believe me.
Whether he'd be happily married today, or divorced, or an ardent supporter
John Hagelin, I still miss him. Isn't that what's important?
I woke up on the morning of the 9th with my radio tuned to the classical
music station of Miami, WTMI, as I always did. That day, however, it was
"Imagine" that lifted its way into my conscious morning. Slowly I
realized something was odd, and when Ken Martin came on and explained that
Lennon was shot the previous night, I was sure I was dreaming. None of
this was normal, none of it made sense.
It really didn't come to me until later in the day, when I passed the
courtyard at Miami-Palmetto High School (I was 15) and a small group had
set up speakers to play Lennon's music all day long. One of the
organizers said that they went to the Principal's office and ask to do a
day-long tribute. He told them, "Of course" without an eyeblink, and
starting writing a note to make sure that there was no problem.
What had started off as a foggy-brained nightmare started to turn into
first big event that I really felt like I was a part of. After all, I
knew Lennon more for his peace efforts in some ways than for his music.
He was shot? For no reason? A the sorrow and incredulity sunk in,
letting us kids express ourselves was something the adults who ran our
lives had no problem with. We were together with them, we were just as
shocked and scared as they were. Many of us stayed out all morning, no
problem, and just conversed about what Lennon's life meant.
When I think of growing up, I often go back to that day. I remember
it felt like to be treated as an adult, and how I understood suddenly how
our hopes and dreams were not that different from theirs. And when I
decorated my son George's room with the Lennon stuff, I wound up the
mobile that plays "Imagine" and thought how wonderful it would be without
boundaries, without fears, without anything other than love and respect
across generational lines that we can cherish even when something awful
I was in California listening to the radio when they found out. The
came on sounding very upset & made the announcement then went to the
evidently previously cued record, "Another One Bites The Dust", by Queen.
That was kind of shocking after the announcement.
Then probably a few seconds into the song the announcer ripped the needle
the record and said that he could not play this right now due to John Lennon's murder
and apologized for the mistake of having played it. I have always remembered that
moment even though I was young & didn' t know who John Lennon was.
I could tell he was someone with special from the pain in the DJ's voi
I was home.. it was a cold rainy miserable winter night where I lived,
in Pawtucket, RI.. so I opted to stay home, no clubbing for me that night.
I was watching Benny Hill, and was laughing real hard at a bit he was
doing, when words ran across the bottom of the screen stating that John
Lennon had been fatally shot in front of the Dakota.... needless to say
I stopped laughing. I felt as though my face froze from the wide open mouthed
laugh at the comedian, to a wide open mouthed mask of shock. I felt absolutely
numb.. and I know I sat there for the longest time... I can't recall for how long,
as the information attempted unsuccessfully wash over my numbness.
Later, I went out onto the porch of my apartment. The rain had stopped,
night sky was very clear.. you could see all the stars twinkling in thedarkness,
that was when I started to cry. The stillness of the night, made me feel even
worse... I don't know, I guess because there would be that much less music in
the world? Perhaps because the very first rock and roll song I danced to was
when the Beatles appeard on the Ed Sullivan show, and my parents had us all
watch the show.. and my father taught me how to do the twist.. I remember
twisting with glee 'til I had a stitch in my side... and I could still feel that awesome
good time feeling hearing a Beatles song, or maybe because it was just
one more awful injustice in this world, that a man who spoke out for love, for
peace, for understanding had been stalked and shot down in the street???
Maybe it's all those things or even more, I do know that thinking about
brought a few tears streaming down my cheeks.
I was watching tv at home...what, I can't remember...then the bulletin...
"John Lennon has been shot"...a few minutes later..."John Lennon is dead..."
I remember getting up and pacing around..."this can't be true" I thought....
Soon all three networks (it was twenty years ago) had live coverage...
I got on a bus and went to a friends house...he hadn't heard so I told
He got out his guitar and put on John's first solo album....he didn't play his guitar...
The next day I went to a record store. The clerk was wearing a black
and she was crying. It was a punk rock record store, they didn't sell the Beatles.
A friend of hers had gone to another store to buy her some Beatles.
All she could find was "Live in Hamburg Volume One"...one of those
semi-bootleg albums with horrible sound quality. That is what she was playing...
Everywhere you could hear Beatles songs playing...
I went home after work and watched the news...People were amassing
everywhere for vigils...On the news, I watched a group of people singing
"Yesterday". "That's a Paul McCartney song" my little sister said.
She was right.
Keep up the great job...always great material every day.
I remember that sad December day very well. I was a Program Director
Rock station in the midwest. It was less than a month after Double Fantasy had come out,
the first Lennon album in 5 years and well worth the wait. Initially critics panned the album
for "too much Yoko" in it, but hearing Lennon's voice and lyrics it was like putting on a
comfortable pair of shoes...the album was loaded with great songs.
Plus, we got access to a series of Lennon interviews (that I still have
copies of here) inwhich
he described what he'd been doing with his life as playing "househusband" to raise their son,
Sean, and how music had changed...including New Age (very favorable), Punk (liked the
Pistols, Ramones and Stooges but not much else) and Disco (you can guess his response to that).
He also went into his mellowing and starting to enjoy life and being
"a real person" again after
a decade plus of being under the microscope. He especially liked to walk the streets of New
York or take Sean to Central Park and do the simple things that you or I could do. Overall,
a man who was at peace with himself and the world and this album reflected it.
And how ironic the events that were to follow.
Usually I would be down at the station but for some reason I decided
to go home for a bit.
My girlfriend (now my wife) was there and about 5:30 called in a panic. She told me the UPI
wire machine was ringing off the hook. UPI had a system where if there was an important
story coming down, you'd get an alarm...one bell for a final sports score, two bells for a
celebrity's death, three bells for a Presidential proclamation or major announcement,
four bells for a disaster, like an earthquake and five bells for a real major breaking story.
A bigger story than that, the bell would go and go until you had to
I had only seen that happen once before and that was the Sunday morning Ford pardoned Nixon in '74.
I asked her what the story was and she read the first reports of Lennon
being shot outside the Dakota.
No mention he had died, just he was shot. I told her to call the News Director and I make it over to the
station in light speed. We stood transfixed over the wire machine over the next hour as more and
more information came across. I ordered the air talent to read the news but avoid either any comment
or speculation and try to stay both calm and "within format". Our phones started to ring off the hook...
many callers thinking this was a hoax (appears the TV networks hadn't really picked up on the story yet).
After 6:00 it was wall-to-wall information...and the first mention of
John's death and the name
"John David Chapman" (I remember the first reports had him as "Don"). The pain was intense and
building, my mind couldn't help but flashback to the lifetime of Lennon music that made an impact on
my life. Quitely my Music Director began to compile all the Beatle albums along with all the solos and
until Lennon's burial three days later that's all we played. We also opened up the telephone lines
(no delay mind you) and let our listeners express their feelings. This went well into the night.
Everyone had a "Lennon" moment...from seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan
to buying their first Beatle
album or 45 to where they were when they first heard Sgt. Pepper or how they felt when the Beatles
split to the post Beatle era of Lennon's deportation and his lost summer in LA. Everyone had something
different to contribute and one that all who were listening surely could relate to.
We also tried to find out the reaction from the other Beatles.
We worked the phones to see if there
was any quote or comment, but none was to be found in the first hours. I was able to get in contact
with the famous "fifth Beatle", the great Murray the K...and I was amazed at his calm and philosophical
tone. He was obviously as hurt as the rest of us, but that there must have been some mystical reason
for John's death and that if it can bring us together that is what would matter to John most. He even
was almost sad for Chapman and what drove him to do such a thing. It was a 10 minute interview
that seemed to last forever.
Also I was rolling video tape (I was one of the first kids on my block
to have a VCR) and rolled on all
the newscasts and then a CBS News Special at 10:30 that night. I just felt numb all night...hearing his
interview just a week earlier ran through my mind and how happy he was.
The next day I got word about the tribute at what is now Strawberry
Fields in Central Park but wasn't
able to get away. However I had a friend in New York, armed with a tape recorder, who spent the
better part of 48 hours there and we'd get regular reports. In the meantime our station just kept
playing our Beatles library and anything we could get that was relevent...any song that Lennon had
written or performed on. One that stuck out in my mind was one that was released as a "B" side on
Elton's "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" called "One Day at a Time"...written by John with him
doing the background vocals. Just recently I found my copy...weather-beaten from 25 years of
sitting in boxes, but I just cleaned it up, burnt it into a CD and onto an MP3.
The last memory was 10:00am the day of John's burial. All the
Chicago area radio stations played
"Imagine" as a tribute to him. Not just Rock and Top 40 stations, but even the Classical, Beautiful
Music and Country stations. A fitting tribute to a man who added so much to our culture.
Today my children (ages 13 & almost 16) are die-hard Beatle fans.
A few years ago when ABC
aired the Anthologies, I watched with my son (who was 8 at the time...the same age I was when
I saw him on the Sullivan show). My daughter is the consumate Beatle fan...ask her the name of
Stu Sutcliffe's girlfriend and she'll give you the answer in a "New York Moment".
To me and my wife, this is a great legacy to pass along.
Hearing Lennon & McCartney music is timeless. No matter how
old one gets it develops
a new meaning while serving as the soundtrack of our lives and generation.
Thanks for bartcop!
- Marty -
I wasn't going to respond to this one. I remember when John died,
Yoko asked that we remember John on his birthday, and not on the day of his death.
And I think that she's right.
For John, like Elvis, is not dead and will yet survive for a thousand years.
My ex-wife and I pulled our car up in front of Howard and Donna's house.
Howard came running out of the house. "John Lennon's been shot! He's dead."
And I don't remember how we spent the rest of the night.
I remember Hilary crying, and telling me, "this one's going to take awhile."
The next day I stayed home and played my records of Lennon's works.
I cried myself when I heard "In My Life."
I played it again... and then again... and then again... and then again...
On December 8, 1980, I was a graduate student living in a relatively
nice apartment on
Hartford's west side. I was reviewing and proofreading the first draft of a mock dissertation
for the pain-in-the-ass required research seminar course the next day, and listening to the
all-news AM radio station in Hartford on the Gonzo monster stereo system (talk about overkill)
when the news broke a little after 11PM that John Lennon had been shot.
My girlfriend at the time, an undergraduate music major (and gifted
pianist), overheard the
news bulletin (remember when they were called "news bulletins"?) as she was studying in the kitchen.
She rushed into the living room just as I knocked two stacks of 4x6 index cards, a pile of notes,
and the mock thesis onto the floor reaching across the desk to turn up the volume.
The local station had cut to the network feed from CBS.
We didn't have a television -- the neighborhood had not been wired for
of the three lousy local stations was iffy at best, and it just wasn't a priority at the thime.
But the big grad student hangout, The Keg, did -- with a satellite feed, to boot, thanks to
the ingenuity of a couple engineering students who were buddy-buddy with the owner
-- and it was a five minute walk from Casa Gonzo.
We high-tailed it over.
It was pretty damn quiet at the usually boisterous Keg when we arrived
-- some subdued,
sotto voce chatting. Monday Night Football was on, but the game wasn't exactly priority one
for even the die-hard NFL fans. Minutes after we had ordered a couple Genny Creams
(the favored cheap beer among monay college types in the northeast at the time), Monday
Night Football color commentator Howard Cosell -- who, like John Lennon, lived in the
Dakota -- broke the news that his neighbor had died. Cosell himself sounded anguished.
Were it not for the sound from the television, you could hear a pin drop in The Keg.
I was making ends meet working part time at an independent record store.
I met up with one of my colleagues, K-Dog, before opening.
He was a Stones fan to the bone -- not exactly a fan of the Beatles
("They're pure pop -- pure pap -- the Stones are rock and roll!").
He had a copy of the Hartford Courant in hand and was reading their
coverage of the Lennon murder.
I could see from the look on his face that he'd taken the news as hard
as a hardcore
beatles fan, and I'll never forget the first two things he said that morning:
"Hey, man, do you believe it?...
So where were you when you found out that lennon was dead?"
I was ten when the Beatles played Ed Sullivan, but I'd been into music
before the Beatles. My older sister always had the radio on, and I started keeping
track of the Top Forty songs when I was six or seven. I had a clock radio tuned
to KXOK and Johnny Rabbit was the DJ. Whenever Mom & Dad were gone,
we'd turn the stereo on real loud and listen to my sister's records.
Then I remember reading in the newspaper that there was a new group
England that had long hair and they'd sold - gasp - a million records, and they
also had a "new sound." I was damn interested in hearing this new sound.
Seems like we got the single before the album. I remember "She Loves
and "Saw Her Standing There" and "I Wanna Hold Your hand."
Two of those songs were on the same 45, (that was a type of record) I forget which.
We wore that record out. I figured out a way to make the stereo repeat the same
song again and again and then we'd turn it over and wear the other song out.
The first time I heard The Beatles I was hooked.
I'd never heard anything like that in all my years of listening to music.
It was so damn exciting.
Their guitars didn't sound like other guitars.
Their harmony didn't sound like other harmony.
...and it was soooo exciting.
When I first brought up the subject, I said that nobody I knew had heard
the same way I had. Hell, it's been twenty years - before this week I'm sure I've asked
fifty people how they heard and nobody ever said Howard Cosell until now.
I remember a detail or two, at least I think I do, about that game.
I would've sworn it was the Jets playing, but someone said no.
The way I remember it, it was a tight game, an important game.
Someone said there was discussion in the booth about when to break the
I remember it differently.
I think when the historic time came, one team was lining up for a field
Cosell had just finished a short, bombastic rant about "how important" this play
or this game was, when it seemed like he was suddenly handed a paper.
I think he said,
"Just when you think a game like this is so
something happens that reminds you what 'really important' means."
He was corrcting himself, re-booting the meaning of the word "important."
I thought that was profound as hell, but I knew he was about to say something real bad.
I assumed he was going to say someone had been shot, or a plane had crashed or
something that would make the last 3 hours of football seem trivial by comparison.
Seems like he read it: "Tonight in New York, former Beatle John Lennon was shot..."
I started taping.
I had one of the first VCRs then, and CNN was brand new. ABC stayed with the game.
The local FM station, (Click #1) had a heart attack like I did.
I turned on the Nakamichi for the FM, turned on the tape-concerts "walkman"
to get some AM and more TV reports. "A local goofball" had murdered Lennon.
Led Zeppelin had just broken up after John Bonham died in September.
Music meant a lot more before we had 500 television channels and the internet,
and what meant a lot to me was dying.
But mostly I thought of Yoko.
What a nightmare to be walking down the street arm-in-arm with your husband
and some crazy asshole just decides to take him like that - and he's gone.
I've been thru some shit in my life, everybody has, but I can't think
who's been thru shit like what Yoko went thru, besides Jackie Kennedy.
I can see getting thru something like that in the long run, but how the hell do you
go back to the apartment and cook a meal? or sleep? or do laundry with that
kind of horror/memory burned into your brain?
In the following days, the FM was full of Lennon's music.
For some reason, I had forgotten about Happy Xmas, War is Over.
Did John stop the war all by himself?
Did Bill Clinton?
No, I don't guess any one person
stopped that stupid war,
but is any figure in history before John Lennon in efforts to stop that war?
He must've been doing something right, because that fuck Nixon and Hoover
were doing everything they could to harass him over some petty ante pot bust
which didn't amount to shit, so the Republicans declared John Lennon, the man
who promised, "All we need is love," a subversive, and dangerous to our country.
Son of a bitch.
Stopping the Vietnam meat-grinder was dangerous to our country?
Christ, where was the logic?
I hadn't heard Happy Xmas, War is Over in years and years, and
when it came on I crumbled.
So this is Xmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Xmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Xmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Xmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight
A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Xmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Xmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now
I kept hearing Yoko sing, "Let's hope it's a good one" and that was tearing me up.
I don't remember much after that.